Like His Predecessors, Trump Failed Badly In Afghanistan-- Now He Wants To Make Sure Biden Does Too

I once got into a dispute about Afghanistan with one of my favorite members of Congress. It wasn't heated or anything but she never really wanted to be friends again after that. Sad. I was in Afghanistan twice, for several months the first time (1969) and for about a month the second time (1971-2). I never stayed in a hotel and I basically had no money at all so, believe me when I tell you, I was close to the ground and very much with Afghanis in a way that few Americans ever are. I spent a winter in the Hindu Kush in a hamlet with two families, living with one of the families. No one had ever heard of the U.S. or experienced electricity. Nor did anyone speak Farsi (Dari is the language and it's an archaic form of Farsi, as though you were speaking English with thees and thous.) But these folks spoke Qashqari, an obscure local dialect as a first language and Pashto as a second language which I already knew a few words of and that became our mode of communication once I learned more words from my new adoptive family.

Anyway, aside from the Hindu Kush, I spent time in Kabul, Ghazni, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and in a jail "cell" (basically a hole in the earth, not a cell) in Dali between Mazar and the Russian border where I was arrested for trying to smuggle 100 pounds of hash to Scandinavia via the Soviet Union. That was a mistake but at least I was arrested on the Afghan side where I was able to get my business partner-- a relative of the king-- to get me out and, eventually, get me my van and hash back.

So anyway, here I am, 2008, in a houseful of well-off Democratic donors-- a gazillion miles from the Hindu Kush-- and my friend in Congress, a 100% progressive on everything but Afghanistan, apparently-- says she opposes American troops leaving Afghanistan because we have to free the women. I guess I should have kept my mouth shut... maybe she'd still be my friend.

The U.S. can never "free the women" of this primitive, tradition-bound land of warriors for several reasons, one being that U.S. policy-makers don't have that high up on their priority list-- or even in the middle of it. Other reasons have to do with the Afghan men, who oppose it. Remember I mentioned one of the towns I had spent time in was Ghazni? It's off the beaten path and no one goes there but I had a couple of college friends in the Peace Corp stationed there. The husband was helping with a simple water engineering project and the wife was teaching the women how to speak their own language. Most Afghan women, especially in the sticks, had very limited vocabularies-- probably still do. They know a lot of words for rice and for the chores that are required to do and for sex but not much beyond that. Not enough words to think abstractly.

I tried stressing to my congressional friend that if the U.S. stays in Afghanistan for a century, the women would not be any freer, at least not because of American efforts. A few years after I was there, the Russians took over. They freed the women. They led to a lot of dead Russians (and Afghan women)... and twas followed by the Taliban. And that was the end of an extremely short period of women being freer, something many women don't even conceive of.

There's nothing that Trump has ever done that is right. Getting out of Afghanistan has always been the right thing to do but Trump has made everything worse, his troop withdrawal as well. That imbecile had 4 years to do it and he didn't, so now he wants to screw up Biden's opportunity to negotiate out of it. I loved Afghanistan and it pains me to see over 5 decades of unimaginable suffering since I was there. The last thing those poor people needed was Donald Trump butting in.

Just under year ago, Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies wrote a piece for Counterpunch, The Real Lesson of Afghanistan is That Regime Change Does Not Work. I think forcefully trying to impose our values and culture on societies living according to ancient traditions doesn't work either.

"The trove of U.S. 'Lessons Learned' documents on Afghanistan published by the Washington Post portrays, in excruciating detail, the anatomy of a failed policy, scandalously hidden from the public for 18 years," they wrote. The 'Lessons Learned' papers, however, are based on the premise that the U.S. and its allies will keep intervening militarily in other countries, and that they must therefore learn the lessons of Afghanistan to avoid making the same mistakes in future military occupations. This premise misses the obvious lesson that Washington insiders refuse to learn: the underlying fault is not in how the U.S. tries and fails to reconstruct societies destroyed by its 'regime changes,' but in the fundamental illegitimacy of regime change itself. As former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz told NPR just eight days after 9/11, 'It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t approve of what has happened.' The 'Lessons Learned' documents reveal the persistent efforts of three administrations to hide their colossal failures behind a wall of propaganda in order to avoid admitting defeat and to keep 'muddling along,' as General McChrystal has described it. In Afghanistan, muddling along has meant dropping over 80,000 bombs and missiles, nearly all on people who had nothing to do with the crimes of September 11th, exactly as Ben Ferencz predicted... It shouldn’t take 18 years for U.S. officials to publicly admit that there is no military solution to a murderous and unwinnable war for which the U.S. is politically and legally responsible."

Trump's "plan"-- to reduce U.S. forces from 5,000 to 2,500 before Inauguration Day-- has little to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with making an untenable political situation for Biden.